"[A] narrative of unfathomable courage... Ms. Strauss does her readers—and her subjects—a worthy service by returning to this appalling history of the courage of women caught up in a time of rapacity and war." —Wall Street Journal
"Utterly gripping." —Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes
"A compelling, beautifully written story of resilience, friendship and survival. The story of Women’s resistance during World War II needs to be told and The Nine accomplishes this in spades." —Heather Morris, New York Times bestselling author of Cilka's Journey
The Nine follows the true story of the author’s great aunt Hélène Podliasky, who led a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped a German forced labor camp and made a ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII from Germany back to Paris.
The nine women were all under thirty when they joined the resistance. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. They were subjected to a series of French prisons and deported to Germany. The group formed along the way, meeting at different points, in prison, in transit, and at Ravensbrück. By the time they were enslaved at the labor camp in Leipzig, they were a close-knit group of friends. During the final days of the war, forced onto a death march, the nine chose their moment and made a daring escape.
Drawing on incredible research, this powerful, heart-stopping narrative from Gwen Strauss is a moving tribute to the power of humanity and friendship in the darkest of times.
Poet and children's author Strauss (The Hiding Days) delivers a brisk yet uneven group biography of nine women who resisted the Nazis in WWII. They include H l ne Podliasky, the author's great aunt; Nicole Clarence, a Jewish radio operator; and Yvonne "Mena" Le Guillou, a French liaison with the Dutch resistance. Caught at various points in 1944, the women met (most for the first time) at the Ravensbr ck concentration camp. Sent to work at a munitions factory outside Leipzig, they sabotaged weapons as they plotted their escape. The chance came in April 1945, when their work camp was evacuated and its 5,000 prisoners were forced to march east. After hiding in a ditch, the women altered their clothing to appear more like refugees and trekked west, eventually encountering U.S. troops outside the village of Colditz. Strauss delves into the complications survivors faced in "returning to life," and infuses the narrative with harrowing details about Ravensbr ck and intriguing asides on her research process, but the nature of how and why close relationships developed between these nine women remains somewhat unclear. Still, fans of women's and WWII history will be drawn to this deeply researched chronicle. Illust.